5 Reasons to Use SharePoint On-Premises for Project Management
Microsoft SharePoint is a popular and practical option for project management teams. Using SharePoint, project teams can centralize all project data in one location and work collaboratively together from any location.
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SharePoint is available as a server-based On-Premises solution, a cloud-hosted solution, or a hybrid solution, which combines the two offerings.
If you decide to use SharePoint for project management, you may encounter some questions about the right version to work with.
In this article, I’ll take a look at the benefits of SharePoint for project management before exploring common reasons why organizations remain with SharePoint On-Premises.
What is Microsoft SharePoint?
Launched in 2001 as a web-based collaborative tool, Microsoft SharePoint is used by over 400,000 customers in 250,000 organizations worldwide, including 85% of Fortune 500 companies.
Unlike Word or Excel, SharePoint is not a single tool. Instead, SharePoint is a collection of tools designed to help organizations build intranets, manage documents, and collaborate in a secure environment.
SharePoint is highly configurable, allowing organizations to develop workflows and systems to support their internal processes.
Uses of SharePoint include:
- Document management and sharing
- Centralizing documents and data
- Intranet portals
- Wikis and forums
- Knowledge management.
Prior to the launch of Office 365, SharePoint was available on-premises as a locally-hosted application. The organization was responsible for the installation and maintenance of the system, along with upgrades.
In June 2011, Microsoft launched Office 365, a cloud-based subscription plan with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and services such as email, social, file storage, and web conferencing.
Office 365 is hosted by Microsoft and accessed by end-users as a service. This removes the need to maintain servers and resources.
Microsoft has also taken a ‘cloud-first’ development approach, with new features delivered to the cloud before on-premises – if they are introduced to on-premises versions.
SharePoint Online, a cloud-based-solution, followed in 2013. It is worth noting that SharePoint On-Premises and SharePoint Online differ significantly in terms of development and functionality. We’ll cover some key differences later on.
On October 22, 2018, SharePoint Server 2019 was released to the general public. Key to this latest release was an alignment of SharePoint On-Premises with SharePoint Online, including the application of the modern experience to SharePoint 2019.
Why use SharePoint for Project Management?
Although SharePoint was not designed primarily for project management, it’s easy to see the benefits of using SharePoint for this purpose.
The structure of a SharePoint site, especially lists and web parts, makes it easy to organize and manage a project.
Useful SharePoint (and project) lists include:
- Document Library: Use to create a single repository for all project documents.
- Issues: Use this list to track and manage issues raised by the team.
- Tasks: Add tasks and subtasks to create the project timeline. You can also assign tasks to individual team members and track their progress.
Web parts act as a project dashboard, displaying key project information in a usable way. For example, adding the ‘project tasks’ web part to the project homepages provides a snapshot of the underlying tasks list.
When extended with project portfolio management software such as BrightWork, project managers can use SharePoint to:
- Easily configure and deploy project sites aligned with internal project management processes.
- Create consistency in how projects are delivered with re-usable templates and project sites.
- Use lists to manage tasks, issues, and risks.
- Report across projects and portfolios
- Manage the project request pipeline.
- Implement workflows to automate key tasks.
- Ensure the integrity of project information with document management, version control, and permissions.
- Create real-time dashboards, scorecards, and metric tiles to track project progress.
- Assign and manage project tasks.
- Track work, including overdue or unassigned work.
- Increase engagement with stakeholders using reliable data and clear reports.
- Manage changes to project sites using templates, reducing IT overheads.
Organizations can now choose to remain On-Premises, migrate to SharePoint Online, or opt for a hybrid solution.
Below are five common reasons organizations remain On-Premises.
5 Reasons to Use SharePoint On-Premises for Project Management
1. Data management
If your organization operates in a highly regulated industry or works with very sensitive data, the security features, permissions, and search functionalities within SharePoint On-Premises are critical.
For these reasons, On-Premises remains popular with government agencies, and within the healthcare, manufacturing, and finance sectors.
Here are a few key differences between SharePoint On-Premises and SharePoint Online for data management:
- With SharePoint On-Premises, it’s easy for organizations to maintain internal governance processes and control external access to data. The same controls are typically not available online as Microsoft is responsible for data security.
- Storing data in SharePoint On-Premises simplifies project reporting with aggregate dashboards and drill-down reports. If your data cannot be migrated to the cloud, such options are not feasible with SharePoint Online.
- There is no guarantee as to where your data will or will not be stored in SharePoint Online, making compliance very tricky. Your data is subject to the laws of the country of the relevant data center. In some instances, this means your data could be accessed by government agencies without your knowledge.
- User data is deleted after 90 days if the subscription to Office 365 expires or is canceled. This may be problematic for organizations that require extensive historical records for auditing purposes.
As mentioned above, SharePoint On-Premises is very configurable. Many organizations have invested considerable resources and time in developing complex workflows and in-house apps. In many cases, SharePoint On-Premises is the driving engine of business processes and is core to document management.
A high percentage of companies surveyed by Sharegate and Nintex in 2017 had increased their level of SharePoint customizations that year, with over 82% using workflows – a strong indicator of just how popular SharePoint customization is.
Due to data and performance integrity and server control, it’s not possible to translate these customizations to a cloud installation, which is shared with other ‘tenants’. Users cannot access the back-end infrastructure of SharePoint Online, limiting the development of highly-custom workflows.
It is also not possible to save and reuse templates or project sites using SharePoint Online. The template or site must be created from scratch each time.
Organizations risk losing both their investment in such customizations and a detrimental impact on any related process when moving online.
In addition, customizations in the cloud are also impacted by updates, which leads to the next point.
3. Controlled Updates
Office 365 users have no control over the rollout of updates from Microsoft and their impact. Microsoft decides what will stay or go in a given update.
Organizations with complex configurations often opt to stay On-Premises to manage updates and patches in a sustainable, non-disruptive schedule.
Interestingly, organizations who wish to have full control over topology, for example, the naming conventions for project sites, will find such options lacking in SharePoint Online.
4. Internet Reliability
Uninterrupted access to online documents and sites requires reliable internet. If your network does not have sufficient bandwidth, trying to work online will quickly become a frustrating experience that grinds progress to a halt.
Whilst touted as a cheaper alternative, there are two major costs associated with migrating to SharePoint Online.
Firstly, migration to an online solution can be quite expensive, especially if you need to hire external consultants. You’ll also need to allocate time and internal resources to:
- Gathering requirements to select the relevant pricing plans.
- Documenting internal business processes.
- Migrating data.
- End-user training.
- Ongoing subscription management.
Upgrading an existing SharePoint On-Premises environment is often less costly than migrating to the cloud.
Secondly, the long-term costs of cloud subscriptions for every user can exceed the initial purchase of On-Premises licenses.
Companies can easily spend too much on the wrong plan, quickly running up costs. Another risk is selecting a lower-tier plan with reduced functionality to save money. This route can severely limit the ability of employees to get their work done.
It’s also important to consider the previous cost of complex configuration and any downtime for business processes reliant upon workflows or apps.
Ultimately, the decision to use SharePoint On-Premises or move to SharePoint Online will depend on your organization’s strategic objectives; data management requirements; business process, and budget.
However, it is important to consider what your business needs now and in the future to support internal processes and maintain data integrity. Over time, SharePoint Online is far less flexible than SharePoint On-Premises.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2018 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
In her free time, she enjoys a challenging session at the gym, tucking into a good book, and walking the beautiful Galway coastline with her dog.